An interview with Jim French, president of Lake Zurich Radiator & Air Conditioning Service Inc.
Q: Describe your business. What do you do?
Address: 785 Oakwood Road, S101, Lake Zurich, IL 60047
Owners: Jim and Vickie French
Year business started: 1996
Web address: www.lakezurichradiator.com
A: We specialize in automotive cooling system repair. In addition to radiator and air conditioning repairs, we offer complete automotive repair and computer diagnostic scanning for engine, electrical and emission repairs. We are a wholesale distributor of cooling system parts, and stock hundreds of radiators and condensers.
Q: You have been in business a while, what's the secret to your success?
A: If you treat customers fairly, do the job right the first time, make the effort to explain the repair, and get the service done in a timely manner, then the customer is not only satisfied, but you have a repeat customer. Their word-of-mouth is one of the best forms of advertisement. Also, I have great employees who are hard workers, and as dedicated as I am.
Q: What made you start your business?
A: I had been managing similar automotive repair businesses for over 30 years. I worked long hours for someone else's business. It got to the point where I thought, as long as I'm working so many hours, it might as well be for my own business. I saw the need for an automotive cooling system repair business in Lake County. My wife, Vickie, had a background in accounting and business, and we both wanted to be self-employed. Both of our kids have also worked for us during high school and college.
Q: What has been the most difficult obstacle in running or starting a small business?
A: The hardest part has been putting in the long hours, and due to the seasonality of our business, we never get to take a summer vacation.
Q: What do you enjoy most about operating your business?
A: I am a hands-on owner who likes to get under the hood. My mechanics are awesome trouble shooters, who take a great deal of continuing education to keep current and ASE certified. Diagnosing and solving repair problems for customers is very rewarding.
Q: Is this what you pictured yourself doing when you were young? When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: As a matter of fact, I have been interested in cars, since I was 10. My first job was working in a radiator shop at the age of 16, so owning my own shop has always been my goal.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: I don't get much sleep in the summer, but that's because of the 10 -14 hour days I work. Nothing really keeps me up at night. If I leave something unfinished, I just start earlier the next day. My wife does enough worrying for the both of us.
Q: If you could give one tip to a rookie business owner, what would it be?
A: Doing something that you really like makes the days go by much faster. Having good employees is also key. Establish a good customer base, treat them right, and your business will continue to grow.